President Biden will visit Israel on Wednesday to deliver a strong message of support to a key U.S. ally that has declared war on the Palestinian group Hamas over its. Mr. Biden is “coming here at a critical moment for Israel, for the region, and for the world,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday during his second visit to the Jewish state in a week.
Blinken also said the U.S. and Israel had “agreed to develop a plan that will enable humanitarian aid from donor nations and multinational organizations to reach civilians in Gaza,” the small, densely packed Palestinian territory that has been run by Hamas for almost two decades. Relentless Israeli airstrikes and a complete blockade of the Gaza Strip, imposed by Israel in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, have driven roughly half of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents from their homes and created a humanitarian crisis as food, fuel and water all run desperately short.
Officials in Gaza say Israel’s bombardment has killed more than 2,800 people and wounded almost 11,000 others, a majority of them women and children. In Israel, officials say Hamas’ siege and ongoing rocket attacks have killed some 1,400 people and wounded 3,500 others. Hamas is said to be holding almost 200 hostages, including Israeli troops and civilians.
Thirteen U.S. nationals remain unaccounted for after the Hamas raids in Israel and 30 U.S. citizens have been confirmed killed. As many as 600 U.S. nationals are thought to be among the hundreds of thousands of people trapped in Gaza.
The biggest questions Tuesday morning remain when Israel will launch its widely expected ground invasion of Gaza, having vowed to destroy Hamas on its home turf, and when Israel and Egypt — which controls the only border crossing out of southern Gaza, at Rafah — might agree to open that gate to let at least some foreign nationals escape and humanitarian supplies get in.